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Veteran jurist SM Zafar, who served as federal minister for law and justice, dies in Lahore aged 93

Senior legal expert passes away after suffering prolonged ailment

October 19, 2023
Senior Pakistani jurist and former Senator Syed Muhammad Zafar. — provided
Senior Pakistani jurist and former Senator Syed Muhammad Zafar. — provided

Senior Pakistani jurist and former Senator Syed Muhammad Zafar, popularly known as SM Zafar, breathed his last in Lahore, his family members confirmed on Thursday.

The family revealed that the senior legal expert passed away at age 93 after suffering a prolonged ailment.

"We are deeply grieved to announce the passing away of S.M.Zafar, beloved husband, father, and grandfather. May his soul be received in light and love by our Rabb. May he be granted the highest place in jannat," a statement from the family read. 

Zafar's funeral prayer will be offered in Lahore, it added. 

Also known as one of the most prominent Pakistani human rights activists and noted lawyer, Zafar was the father of Barrister Ali Zafar — a top leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — and served as the federal minister for Law and Justice from 1965 to 1969.

The veteran jurist was born in Burma on December 6, 1930, and began his career as a lawyer in the 1950s after graduating from University Law College.

With his legal career spanned over six decades, Zafar left an indelible mark on the country’s judiciary, politics, and the advocacy of human rights.

After retiring from the government in 1968, he started his own law practice and hung the boots as an active law practitioner in 2014.

He represented various landmark cases in Pakistan's Supreme Court and was known for his unwavering commitment to justice. Apart from his legal pursuits, he also served as a senator and was an influential voice in the realm of Pakistani politics.

Some of his major legal contributions include the acquittal of Pakistani Scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the discussion and draft of the 1973 Constitution, and participation in the drafting of the 18th constitutional amendment.

Besides being a Nishan e Imtiaz (2012) holder, Zafar received several other awards and souvenirs for his services to the country. 

His commitment to human rights was unparalleled. He was an active proponent of minority rights, women's rights, and was vociferous against honor killings, blasphemy laws, and any form of oppression. His role as a co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan further highlighted his dedication to the cause.

Zafar was also an academic, imparting his vast knowledge to young minds at Punjab University Law College, his alma mater, where he also served as a dean. He penned several books, shedding light on law, governance, and rights.

The veteran jurist's passing has been met with a deluge of condolences from leaders, activists, and citizens alike.